Ask a FEA

Ask A FEA – Jeff Noble on Multi-Disciplinary Advising (MDA)

Published: Mar 14, 2022

Jeff Noble, CMC, FEA
Director of Business and Wealth Transition,
BDO Private Wealth
> FEA Council Member

As an active FEA and proud Family Enterprise Canada ambassador, a week seldom goes by that a client, key stakeholder or another advisor doesn’t call me to ask my ‘take’ on Multi-Disciplinary Advising (MDA). Does it work? How can it work? How do I work with non-FEA advisors? What if I’m not the family’s primary trusted advisor? Who is in control of the process? Who is accountable for the outcomes? Reporting? Really, where is the real value when we all come from different professions, positions, skill and talent sets and billing models?

Wow! Who knew this could be so complex? Thinking back to the FEA Program, MDA was key. Understanding our strengths and the strengths of those on our ‘project team’ was critical to success. While many suggest that is not a reality, I am here to say that, yes, multi-disciplinary advising does work. And most importantly, the clients LOVE it!

Many try it and are challenged to make it work. My experience teaches me that to truly integrate with other advisors means so much more than providing your profession of origin, expert input into a case or file. It is even more than collaboration through a series of baton hand-offs. Just doing my part with no understanding of the impact on the others on the team is not enough, really.

We have the opportunity as advisors to work together and to model leadership, vulnerability, trusting, open relationships and unselfishly create value, not for ourselves but for our clients. Advisors working with families use words like dynamics, interdependency, systems, governance, conflict management, common vision, purpose, shared values, transparency, open and inclusive communication… You get the idea. We must first build a team – or if joining a team – that understands how each of these concepts are alive and well and exist in the realm of this very MDA team itself.

Our preferred clients, in fact some of our best relationships, are with people who surround themselves with people they feel are smarter than they are. Know this: by definition, there can only be one ‘smartest person in the room’. When advisors get together, each may try to be that person. I ask you to seriously consider how that appears to the family you are working with. All these professionals vying for attention, face time, airtime, volume… noise… fees… and not helping the family!

Think of the widely used, highly impactful and very practical three circle model. Instead of family, business and ownership – try thinking me and my profession, the rest of the team and the client. Whose interests are we representing, and when? The real sweet spot of true value creation is right in the middle, where all three circles intersect, and we act together. Always encourage a culture of ‘VTO’ — value to others.

Best of luck, and please always remember: it is a privilege to serve enterprising families. And yes, we can and do make a difference. VTO.

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